Edit: Since posting this, I've gone on to found a rationalist singalong holiday and get an album produced, available at humanistculture.bandcamp.com

Something that's bothered me a lot lately is a lack of good music that evokes the kind of emotion that spiritually-inspired music does, but whose subject matter is something I actually believe in. Most songs that attempt to do this suffer from "too literal syndrome," wordily talking about science and rationality as if they're forming an argument, rather that simply creating poetic imagery. I was recently motivated by the Baba Yetu music video for Civilization V, which essentially showcases the power of scientific achievement over the course of human history.... but the lyrics basically attribute this to Christianity, rather than scientific progress. I'm not opposed to religious music being used for such a purpose, but I wanted to find a song that hit all the right emotional notes as well as the intellectual concepts. I think that art is an important medium by which to communicate ideas, and for rationality to be successful as a meme it's going to need "carrier wave" works of art to help it compete with religion for the general population's passion and understanding.

I've only found two songs that come close to being the specific thing I'm looking for:

Word of God


(Highly recommend good headphones/speakers for the Singularity one - there's some subtle ambient stuff that really sells the final parts that's less effective with mediocre sound)


Over the past few months I've been working on a rational humanist song. I consider myself a reasonably competent amateur songwriter when it comes to lyrics, not so much when it comes to instrumental composition. I was waiting to post something when I had an actual final version worth listening to, but it's been a month and I'm not sure how to get good instrumentation to go along with it and I'm just in the mood to share the lyrics. I'd appreciate both comments on the song, as well as recommendations for good, similar music that already exists. And on the off chance someone likes it enough to try putting it to the music, that'd be awesome. (I don't mind other people using the lyrics for non-profit purposes, I do mind using them for profit purposes)


Brighter than Today
Many winter nights ago
A woman shivered in the cold
Stared at the sky and wondered why the gods invented pain.She bitterly struck rock together
Wishing that her life was better
Suddenly she saw the spark of light and golden flame.
She showed the others, but they told her
She was not meant to control
The primal forces that the gods had cloaked in mystery.But proud and angry, she defied themShe would not be satisfied.
She lit a fire and set in motion human history.
Tomorrow can be brighter than today,
Although the night is cold
And the stars may feel so very far away
But every mind can be a golden ray
Of courage hope and reason
Surely we can find a better way.
Ages since but not yet now
We built the wheel, and then the plow
We tilled the earth and proved our worth against the drought and snow;
Soon we had the time to ponder
Look up to the sky and wonder
Could there be some deeper meaning we were meant to know?
Tomorrow can be brighter than today,
Although the night is cold
And stars may feel so very far away.
But futures can unfold where
Courage, hope and reason grow
with every passing season so
we'll shed the lies that tie us down
And seek truths ever more profound
And drive the darkness far away.
Tomorrow can be brighter than today
Brighter than today 
The universe many seem unfair
And the laws of nature do not care
The plagues and storms and our own evils nearly doused our flame
But all these things, we have endured
Through morals learned, diseases cured.
Against our Herculean tasks we've risen to proclaim:
Tomorrow can be brighter than today,
Although the night's still cold
The stars won't always be so far away
If I may be so bold
It doesn't have to be this way
Each human mind's a golden ray
of courage, hope and reason
Each and every passing season
We can seek the truths that make us stronger
Build the world that we all long for
Strive for lives of joy and meaning
Shine a light that's always gleaming
Rise up to the stars and say:Tomorrow will be brighter than today!
Tomorrow will be brighter than today!
I know it will be brighter than today.


(This is, essentially, a fan-song for Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, inspired in particular by chapter 47)

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I think that art is an important medium by which to communicate ideas, and for rationality to be successful as a meme it's going to need "carrier wave" works of art to help it compete with religion for the general population's passion and understanding.

Trouble is, you can't do that without the message becoming, well, irrational in the process. (Which is not without historical precedent!)

Not to disparage your artistic aspirations, but your poem is certainly an example. I won't even get into various relatively minor distortions of human history it presents. I'll just comment on its basic theme of technical progress, which it presents as a constant bringer of good fortune and improved life, and the expected source of a bright utopian future. This picture is just too remote from reality. Of course, it would be silly to deny the benefits of technical progress and economic growth since the Industrial Revolution, and various ideological attempts to argue otherwise are an awful pile of nonsense. However, in other periods in history, the connection has been less clear -- and more importantly, there is no guarantee that these historically recent favorable trends will continue into the future. The future technical progress may result in anything from human extinction to a grim Malthusian scenario, and in fact, a strong case can be made that such outcomes are more likely than "the world that we all long for" (whatever that is).

Now, you could say that in order to maximize the chances of bright future, we should raise awareness along these lines, promote humanism, etc. This however seems to me like an unproven assertion. Why would you believe this, and how would you justify this belief?

Also, another significant point of disconnect from reality in your article and poem is the belief that average people care for seeking truth beyond their own practical needs, or that they can be made to do so. Regardless of all the progress in science and technology, I see no indication whatsoever that average people in modern developed countries are less superstitious and less prone to high-status delusional beliefs than their ancestors centuries ago. In fact, I don't think this is true even of most highly educated people outside their particular fields of expertise, and I certainly don't believe it's true of most people who attach to themselves labels of rationalists, skeptics, free-thinkers, etc.

I think you're slightly missing the point of what this is supposed to do. Music is not for communicating facts, it's for instilling emotions. It's main purpose for a rationalist is presumably to make somehting you already know more salient and generally install it emotionally, not for deducing those probabilities and facts in the first place. Sort of.

This, mostly. I think your concerns are valid (I've pondered them myself) and I upvoted your comment.

I will admit that this first and foremost a humanist song - I'm willingly to sacrifice a bit of "technically correct rationality" for the sake of humanist ideals. Also worth noting that I am explicitly an instrumental rationalist - I value epistemic rationality only insofar as it is useful, and I think there are areas where its more important to be confident than to be strictly correct.

I also don't think my phrasing is strictly wrong (where dark malthusian futures are concerned - I take responsibility for my artistic licenses with history and don't consider them that big a deal). There are plenty of possible bad futures, and many of them are even likely. The wording of the song is not that a great glorious humanist dawn is inevitable. It's that it CAN happen. And whether it does happen depends on the choices we make. Making the right choices requires us to believe that success is possible, and to be passionate about it.

I may be wrong about the number of people who care about reason growing - I lack adequate research to compare across the ages. But I'm pretty confident that the growth of literacy and education has radically increased the upper limit on people who even COULD be rational if they wanted to, and even if the majority are still parroting high-status ideas, I think the quality of those ideas has improved over time. That's still valuable even if there's plenty of room for improvement.

It is my belief (I won't pretend that it's much more than faith) that humanity is capable of solving the problems before it, and that if we fail, it's not because we weren't smart enough or strong enough, it's because we were too lazy or didn't care enough. It's the job of intellectuals to figure out the right thing to do. It's the job of artists to make people care. And we have our work cut out for us if we want to compete with religion as something that people are inspired by.

And as magfrump said, independent of whether any of the above turns out to be realistic, there is still the joy in music itself, and that is valuable regardless of the other benefits I hope for.

Very well said! Some notions in there that I've been hoping LW will absorb for quite a while now.

I'm not quite able o take the same epistemic stance as you in the second paragraph, but I do believe it is valuable for the community to contain individuals that do. There are some signs LW suffers from everyone trying to become the next Eliezer, while really only the top smartest 10% should do that and the rest specializing in helping the community other ways.


I'm willingly to sacrifice a bit of "technically correct rationality" for the sake of humanist ideals

So what you're saying is that you're willing to lie to people to get them on board with your ideology!


Artistic license is not the same as lying. I wouldn't write a song that communicated an idea that I didn't think was supported by rationality, but the purpose of the lyrics is not to communicate the idea accurately, it's to communicate the emotion associated with that idea.

Insistence that all art meet Less Wrong standards for technical accuracy is not a meme that will successfully spread to the general population. And I do not think that's a bad thing.

I don't think this is meant for people who don't already believe in what it says anyway.

Whether or not music is a good medium for spreading a message and whether or not that is an efficient goal to pursue, I for one enjoy listening to music and would be happy if there were songs like this in existence and if they were accessible to me. That amount of utility seems worth going after.

It seems likely to me that there will be positive externalities of the type you dispute, but in my mind that's orthogonal to the goal of creating art which allows this community as it exists to confirm and exult in its identity.

The second paragraph of the parent comment (minus the first two sentences) might work well as an inspirational song if someone rearranged it and fixed the meter.

This is the first time my literary output has been set to music, so thanks for this unexpected honor.

This is the most inspiring thing I have heard all day.

This is awesome and you should be a part of my mathematics/extropian punk band when it finally forms.

Nice! Voted up.

What steve said.

Less Wrong should integrate flattr so that I wouldn't have to say "I would upvote this 214 times if I could".

Somebody Will by Sassafras. It's the anthem for people working on big projects (especially space) that they will not see completed.

Drivel-- the opposite of an anthem-- it's a description of how to do bad science.

The first song of this album, "The Father of Death." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWwGo28FdZ8

Tom: They've waited so long for this day (Albert: They've waited so long for this day) Someone to take the death away (There is no price they wouldn't pay) No son would ever have to say, (For someone else to lead them) "My father worked into his grave." (Don't turn your back on me!)

Men sleep tonight with hands of bone. They will awake with hands of steel. And with these hands we will destroy. And with these hands we will rebuild.

Albert: And we will stand above our city, rising high above her streets. From tops of buildings we will look at all that lies beneath our feet.

And we will raise our hands above us, cold steel shining in the sun, and with these hands that will not bleed, your father's battle will be won!

I didn't actually listen to this song at the time, and much later I discovered it and it is indeed excellent.

This is where you can find the song today (this is actually a link to the playlist): "The Good Doctor" from "Act II - The Father of Death" by The Protomen

Edit: I'd actually bet on the Bandcamp page lasting forever, so you might like this better: https://theprotomen.bandcamp.com/track/the-good-doctor

Somebody Will has beautiful lyrics. Is there a more professional recording of it somewhere?

Tried to chase it down for us present-day folks. The GALL of you past commenters, putting all your music in the past instead of the present.

The pro version is supposed to be here, but the store closed, so you can't grab that version.

However, they got a Bandcamp eventually, so you can see some versions of the song here.

Hope this helps someone.

The link appears to be broken.

Corrected. Sorry.

I WISH I COULD UP VOTE THIS TEN TIMES! There are so many things you've put in this post that all on their own would deserve a highly upvoted posts. Song collecting thread idea, great song links, encouragement for making LW art... And most of all, an absolutely beautiful and original example of such art!

There is no way I can properly express how greatly I support you in this task. This community needs art BADLY, much more so than almost anyone seem to realize and there is far to little incentive given for producing it.

I posted this today because I was a little sad for various reasons and needed to think about something positive, so I, in turn, am grateful for this comment.

I'm glad I could help. :)

I am so happy for you. But look at us still talking when there's Science to do...

I listened to "Singularity". I realize it was serious, but it almost sounded like a parody of transhumanism. In theory, I have no objection to uploading, but it's viscerally unappealing. Imagery about becoming ones and zeroes does not give me a warm happy feeling.

Your metaphor about light is a much pleasanter one. I can imagine that a love song might work, too - "I still want to know you in 3,000 years" or similar.

I think this might be a decent example of "rationalist" music. In particular, the lyrics communicate the value of seeking knowledge and discerning truth. There are parts that I disagree with, but overall I think it's pretty great for a Touhou soundtrack cover made by non-rationalists. Turn on captions to see the lyrics and their English translation.

The Philosopher's Polar North [Nhato Remix]


I'll paste the translated lyrics here:

Accepting even those facts I have denied, <before time melts my memories away>
I absentmindedly lift “truth” from an uneven distribution <as a god might guide fate>

Even if all these impractical theories only represent my disbelief of the status quo,
 there is no “normal” that stays certain or consistent over time
Deciding based on experience is setting yourself into a foolish worldly restriction,
 even with careful consideration you cannot break the thick walls of your narrow views

Even my current knowledge is still uncertain, swaying,
 so with my current knowledge I should be able to keep seeking
When I break out of this shell I’ll reach out over everything
Everything in this world is in my mind; everything, is being drawn in

Everything that has been represented with a model has form,
 in this infinite space inside my mind, can move freely
Everything is recorded in the observer’s eyes
Even the deficiencies in my imagination can be immediately supplemented by literature,
 and so my descent continues –
Until the endless simulations converge into one
If the “end of times” is but a definition, I’ll keep chasing after it forever

Negating even established models, <before I am overcome with the consciousness of sin>
I can go wherever I please, even as I await retaliation <as when a god guarantees freedom>
With my current knowledge, I will not deny anything
 if with my current knowledge I can still keep seeking
The observer will cover over everything
Everything in this world is in my heart; everything, I can touch

No longer will this be contained in just the replicas that have been created,
 this infinite space inside my mind is already “another heaven”
The love of the observer will surely reach all
Everything I find wrong with the real world is immediately supplemented with literature,
 and so my descent continues –
Until my endless ideals converge wih reality
If there must exist “things that cannot be proven”,
I’ll just know everything there is

Roads without roads, questions without answers, turning the page the next is blank
Eventually, questions without questions, time without flow, just by walking towards a wall
There is only, impulse without intention, grasping at sand, it’s just another “Myth of Sisyphus”
That is, meaning without meaning, a predetermined time, zero degrees at the polar north
 the tip of knowledge’s
Roads without roads, questions without answers, turning the page the next is gone
Eventually, questions without questions, time without flow, running into a wall, standing still
There is only, impulse without intention, grasping at sand, it’s just another “Myth of Sisyphus”
That is, meaning without meaning, a predetermined time, even if it is
 zero degrees at the polar north

Here are some places to look for songs you might like:


Here are some less likely to yield anything useful/requiring more forgiving/metaphorical interpretation, but still better than average:

... yea, not much. As I said FAR to little of this stiff exist.

I am currently composing/attempting to record a punk rock version of this; an embarrassingly low quality recording of which I would be happy to e-mail to interested parties when I get it done.

I encourage others to come up with different music because I am 100% certain I did not come up with the ideal composition for this song.

Edit: Here it is! I reiterate that the quality is embarrassingly bad!

Hmm Sex Pistols vis a vis Anarchy in the UK: "I am an instrumental rationalist! I don't know what I want, but I know how to get it!'

"I am an instrumentalist rationalist. I know I'm a terrible singer, so I get better results with just the guitar."

I'm a big fan of multiple versions and multiple styles for the same song. I do have a particular melody in mind, and I have a recording of myself singing it, but I wanted to wait a bit and see what others come up uncontaminated by my thought processes (partly to encourage variety, partly because I'm pretty sure I didn't nail the ideal composition either).

I missed the window where that link worked, apparently.

I still haven't recorded the song the way I originally intended, but will probably do so by the end of the month. I'm planning it for a Newtonmass Celebration.

I have had several requests for this song but unfortunately I have been busy preparing to leave for an extended trip to europe so I won't be able to record anything until august. Apologies to those who await the fruits of my lack of talent.

Even though it might seem a little silly, I've always thought that Belinda Carlisle's Heaven Is a Place on Earth has a surprisingly rationalist, humanist bent. Aside from the basic message conveyed in the title and chorus, I'd note in particular the end of the second verse:

"In this world we're just beginning/ To understand the miracle of living/ Baby I was afraid before/ But I'm not afraid anymore"

Nothing too fancy, but I've always thought the song did a good job of capturing the simple joy that life on earth can hold.

Interesting find. I can work with that.

There's another, more explicitly humanist song that I had forgotten about, which expounds upon that idea:

Requiem For Heaven


It's actually pretty good as a pop song. My only issue with it is that it frames itself as an argument against religion, which is fine, but I'd prefer more relevant songs that don't rankle memetic immune systems.

Baby teeth by Bug Hunter is a nice atheism song, it captures my own feelings very well.

I wrote a rationalist song relatively recently. It's a pastiche of "Clear Mind" by Masaki Endoh, and shares the title. The melody is supposed to be mostly the same as the original song, but somewhat slower, and probably with different instruments. My version's lyrics are quite different though.

Here's the link to listen to the original song on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBcfTeVW61E&list=UUVLVBnJ37IQH1nZZHK2dOYA

The original song is an insert song that was in the anime Yugioh 5ds. It's in japanese, but there's an english translation in the video description.

And here's my version:

Clear Mind


I take a step back and I look all around me
To find the optimal way to realize my dreams
I put two plus two together and I see the answer clearly

With your burning curiosity
And your piercing intellect
Cut through the darkness of illusion to reality!

I've got to make my predictions as accurate as they can be
Because people are counting on me...

Keep on searching for the truth that lies beyond!
Don't be fooled by the lies people tell to themselves or anyone else!
Keep on thinking through the problems facing you!
And you might just reach a better tomorrow with your sanity...with your Clear Mind!

Overcome your helpless confusion
Every mystery has a solution
But if you jump to conclusions you won't find it--No way!

Once you've gathered all the clues you can
And the whole picture isn't changing
Chances are you've solved the puzzle and it's time to act!
--on your findings

If the world is cruel and bloody
Dark and insane
Then I'll light it up with the power of my brain!

Keep on searching for the truth that lies beyond!
Don't be fooled by the lies people tell to themselves or anyone else!
Keep on thinking through the problems facing you!
And you might just reach a better tomorrow with your sanity...with your Clear Mind!


Keep on searching for the truth that lies beyond!
Don't be fooled by the lies people tell to themselves or anyone else!
Keep on thinking through the problems facing you!
And you might just reach a better tomorrow with your sanity...

Keep on searching for the truth that lies beyond!
Don't be fooled by the lies people tell to themselves or anyone else!
Keep on thinking through the problems facing you!
And you might just reach a better tomorrow with your sanity...
WIth rationality...

With your Clear Mind!

My flashdrive recently went missing and there is a chance it might have been stolen. These lyrics were on it. It would be nice if there's someone in the community who's willing to perform it before whatever hypothetical person who might have my flashdrive now claims the song for themself. Anyone who wants to record themselves performing it and publish the recording on Youtube or something is welcome to do so as long as you don't pretend to be the songwriter and cite your sources properly.

I'm also curious about what the reactions are to this song. I hope the lyrics aren't irrational, but since I'm relatively new to rationality I suppose the odds of it being completely rational aren't that good. If it's not completely rational than I would appreciate it if people suggest edits to the lyrics.


Count me in the group that doesn't think your song is Dark Arts, any more than Methods of Rationality. I enjoy it, and I see its purpose as helping people enjoy being humanists.

Singularity is an awesome song, and I wish there were more like it. I'm really looking forward to hearing your lyrics set to music; they look great.

Who is the composer of Singularity?

The link provided just sends me to Myspace's home page, with no mention of any Singularity.

The Lisps, from the Album "Are We at the Movies".


This is more or less discriptive

Blue Spotted Tail by Fleet Foxes

It's a very philosophical song, not strictly rational or humanist. It's the first song I thought of:

Why in the night sky are the lights hung?
Why is the earth moving 'round the sun?
Floating in the vacuum with no purpose, not one.
Why in the night sky are the lights hung?

Science STYLE Cover -- Related

This thread is very hidden in the back story. You might want to repost this in the December 2015 Media thread.

Something that's bothered me a lot lately is a lack of good music that evokes the kind of emotion that spiritually-inspired music does, but whose subject matter is something I actually believe in.

I've had the exact same problem. Thank you for creating this post. :-)

For music that evokes a sublime atmosphere and lacks religious lyrics, I recommend the ambient electronic artist Stellardrone. You can download all the albums for free on his official website. http://stellardrone.bandcamp.com/ (There is one album called "Invent the Universe", but that could refer to a programmer creating a simulated universe. There are no lyrics IIRC and the song titles are quite innocuous, so you are relatively free to interpret the songs as you wish.)

Also, how would you feel about listening to sublime music based on intentionally fictitious deities? I'm thinking in particular about a song from a video game, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn. The song in question is Child of Chaos, the theme song for Yune, the in-game goddess of chaos. (There are no lyrics, in case that's relevant.) I really love this song. Don't be fooled by its name. The song is actually very serene. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYdxRReGjaE

I love your song lyrics by the way. :-) I think it's fine that they draw attention to the bright side of technological development. For the record, I like futuristic dystopian music as well. There's a time and place for both, depending on my mood.

It's been a few years since your post was published. Do you now have audio versions of your song that you can link?

I dont know what the feelings are out here is on heavy metal, but I thought Black Sabbath's "Children of the Grave" is a great song and is what we are looking for. It's primary message is clearly the fight against existential risk. It also portrays the nature of the situation very well, sending across a very clear message. It certainly lacks any technical sounding language, which may be what is needed if something were to be adopted as an anthem, especially for this kind of movement (that is already viewed as being way too technical).

You can check it out here.

Since this is about music, not just songs, I wanted to submit Star Trek XI's main theme. It may not have lyrics, but it gets the point across, I think.

Always makes my eyes moist

A few from my collection:

Acts of Creation by Kathy Mar (it must be online somewhere because I downloaded it once, but I can't find it now)

Make them Hear You from Ragtime (probably most effective within its context -- the character singing is about to walk out to face near-certain death)

Fins of Human Knowledge by Ben Newman

I'll second everything on http://www.prometheus-music.com/space.html

And if Brighter than Today ever gets recorded, please post it here.

Elena Huston - Future In My Hands: An anthem against status quo bias, the sunk costs fallacy and appeals to authority (interpreting each even quatrain as a denigration of the prior odd quatrain).

For rationalist tunes... there's always the German oldie "Die Gedanken sind frei" (My thoughts are free). I wouldn't mind hearing a version of that other than the usual 'bunch of guys doing a drinking song' style.